Normally when I post my musings on George Fisher social media I attract a few dozen ‘Likes’ and perhaps half a dozen or so comments. Usually one of those being from my daughter, and another from my good friend Jeffrey. I certainly don’t attract the sort of attention Chris does from his photographs. However on the morning of Tuesday 23rd June that was all about to change when I posted my thoughts on ‘Jeans and Trainers’. 25,000 views and 8,000 post clicks later, the debate rumbles on…
Picture this; it’s a sunny afternoon and groups of people are making their way up a mountain, Blencathra say, some on the ridges, some on the grassy slopes. Now if Lowry were painting the scene it’d be a procession of matchstick men and women making their way up the so called people’s mountain. Lowry’s depiction would appeal to me, because as matchstick characters our clothing would be indistinguishable. There’d be no cause for discrimination.
I’m a Gemini so you don’t need to talk to me about split personalities, and I’m fully aware that when they choose to be, our mountains can be brutally cold and unforgiving, commanding the utmost respect. On warm dry days however, they are but grassy hills, welcoming and with arms outstretched.
Allow me to let you into a secret; it’s perfectly ok to potter over the Cumbrian hills in jeans and trainers, we do it on a regular basis, as the image suggests. Probably cords more often than jeans but you get the picture. By contrast I’ve just calculated on the back of a Tunnocks caramel wafer wrapper that on a winter walk I am at times kitted out in somewhere in the region of £1400 worth of gear, and on such days I’m glad of it too.
But back to good weather and the simple matter of being a free man on a Sunday; you see I get a bit fed up of hearing the holier-than-thou condemnation “and they were wearing jeans and trainers”, furthermore there’s something almost evangelical about the way the high and mighty round on a man before reciting the law of Lakeland according to them. It’s not nice and I really don’t like it.
I think there’s something heart-warming and wonderful about seeing a family heading for the summit of Blencathra, Great Gable or perhaps Haystacks on a summer’s afternoon or spring bank holiday. Dressed in casual clothes, hoodies tied round their waist, dad carrying the rucksack with the mars bars, bottled water and the map that no one’s really quite sure how to use. Perhaps they’ve put their faith in their fellow man to point them in the right direction, or their trust in the £10 kag in a bag they’re hoping they won’t need, I don’t know, but it pleases me greatly to see these families, in the right conditions, with a good clear forecast, out enjoying the hills. And you know it might just be one of those days that proves to be the spark of the flame that ignites a lifelong love of the fells; the motivation to spend a few pounds exchanging their jeans and sweatshirts for their first Peter Storm trousers and fleece.
Those who know me will tell you I really enjoy long days out on the mountains, both here and in Scotland, taking in several tops and scrambling over sun warmed rock, and I have some pretty fancy clothing that can make that a much more comfortable experience. That’s what proper outdoor clothing does; it provides comfort, and in doing so, it promotes safety. That’s what I tell people all day long, it’s how I make my living. I also sometimes just like to park up the car, stick my smart phone in the pocket of my cords and nip up onto say Dale Head or Grisedale Pike and take a few photographs. Let’s not kid ourselves, these are not expeditions.
And if you, dear reader, should meet someone wearing cords, trainers and a Billy Bragg t-shirt, crossing Haystacks some summer’s day, please don’t look at them in that way. It might be me!
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You know, when sharing my thoughts online that morning, I had visions of Andy Airey (our man at the top) sitting in his office in Herbert Lom mode; hands shaking, one eye involuntary twitching and muttering “What’s he done now?” It’s actually testament to our very own Chief Inspector Dreyfus that we can have such discussions. You see, all posts across the George Fisher social media feeds fall under the parameters of what the business is comfortable with any individual expressing. It’s just like having a conversation with any of our customers on the shop floor. There’s no company script or written guidelines as to what’s to be said and what’s not. On social media we try to convey the tone of voice and conversation content you’ll hear every day in the store.
The post provoked quite a reaction with dozens upon dozens of our Facebook followers expressing their view, which in turn encouraged others to respond to them; sometimes in agreement, sometimes not.
Here is a small selection of the comments we received:
I remember a family outing up Catbells when I was in my early teens. I recall tucking my cords into my socks, wearing a beanie hat and carrying a stick (cut from a tree) and feeling like a 'proper hiker'. My dad, on the other hand, was wearing a lounge suit and tie, expensive leather shoes, carrying a large pair of field glasses in a leather case round his neck and smoking a cigar. He beat us all to the top and surveyed the landscape with his field glasses, suddenly hooting with laughter as he inadvertently focused on a lady having a wee in the bracken. Happy days. A couple of years ago I was reminded of this when I clambered up Catbells in my Altbergs and Rab and on the way passed a lady in a smart trouser suit with stiletto heeled shoes tottering about on the path up from Manesty whilst smoking a cigarette. I tutted... and then I fondly remembered my dad. - Paula Connelly
The problem is that while many get away with inappropriate gear in the mountains that doesn't mean it's advisable to take your chances. Also remember when someone comes on the Internet and posts that it's okay to wear trainers in the hills in certain conditions all many novices read is that it's okay to wear trainers full stop. And they think trainers ... not trail runners or trail shoes. - Andrew Crory
I like running in the fells. I often get looks and the occasional comment of 'not enough clothes'. I don't mind. People trying to keep you safe. I have stuff in the bag. After a run I might go for a walk with the family. I usually wear jeans and flip flops to let the feet breathe again after the run. Not for Scafell Pike but definitely the smaller fells. Nobody ever comments. They must think I am too much of an idiot. But the odd stare says it all! Anyway - weather changes fast in the hills. It’s important being safe. People are OK to make comments. It's how they are delivered that counts. The amount of kit you need to be safe? It's proportionate to the individual. We all sometimes need the odd pointer, particularly those with less experience. Be helpful not critical! - Tom Hollins
As long as the kit matches the conditions - good post. - Chris Potts
We're adults - surely we can judge for ourselves if it's an hour of pottering about on the hill or a day’s expedition. Common sense rules. - Lisa Gunn
Great post. I did meet a young foreign girl on striding in February wearing a 'hello kitty' t-shirt and some Converse all stars. To be honest I felt absolutely ridiculous in my Mammut salopettes, Rab VR jacket, B3 boots, G14s, ice axe and rucksack. And shiny new BD gloves I got for Christmas. Still she was turning back. I still felt like a tool though. - Chris Huntington
Excellent post Mark. Great sentiments. - Nicola Platt
One of the most refreshing hill posts I've seen in a long time. On a good day a walk up Blencathra is a walk in the park (all be it a steep one) and something to be cherished whatever you're wearing. - Dan Milton
Until you turn your ankle in your Reeboks/deck shoes/pumps and have to be rescued by the volunteers! This can happen in any weather. Not sure these heroes will be too happy with your attire as they stretcher you down Haystacks! - Adi Moore
Just because some people have all the gear doesn't mean they have any idea! Well said Mark - Sharon Austin
I totally agree I often go on mountains in trainers (trail running ones). I pick my days and always carry emergency kit, but still get disapproving comments to ignore. - Dale Alltree
I would look at this picture and say ah Osprey camera bag this person must have experience. - Andy Nichol
Great post. I agree entirely. It's just walking. And I've helped a few dim witted walkers on the fells dressed in only the finest outdoor gear, but with no outdoor skills. - Jo Barrett
Thankfully, in the main, everyone remained civil to one another. One or two comments, not printed here, were a little harsher than I’d like to have seen, but it was a thought-provoking topic, and as with the nature of social media, you will always attract the odd argumentative individual.
I must stress one last time; proper outdoor clothing provides comfort and promotes safety. However should you encounter anyone wearing non-technical clothing for whatever reason, inexperience, naivety, budget, good clear weather forecast, whatever it may be, perhaps think about following the advice of contributor Tom Hollins when he said, “Be helpful not critical!”
Images in ‘Mark Wright’ folder
Cover photo: Ebony on Grey Knotts enjoying the evening sun
Below photo: Of course she does wrap herself up when she goes out in the cold!